This may sound like a tongue-in-cheek proclamation, and indeed, I will poke a few holes in the website-building-nephew plan, but there is a very serious element to this post title, one that comes from real empathy for the wide spectrum of customers we’ve encountered, as well as a much-needed pragmatism when interacting with certain types of clientele.
Let me explain.
We’ve all heard one variation or another of the “My so-and-so’s cousin is building websites. I’m going to hire her and see how it goes” response when asking for business. Or many do-it-yourself types will balk at your rates, wondering how some “pretty pictures and words in boxes” can possibly cost that much to put together. Their own logic rings truthy, when you say some of this out loud.
“It feels like a website is just an added expense – I can put together brochures and power points. I’m halfway there.”
“My niece taught herself HTML in high school. She built the school website when she was 15! She’s saying that’s way too much to pay for a 5 page website.”
“Our marketing manager already built the website – we just need some help tweaking and refining – no more than an hour or two, he says.”
For those of you just getting started, who think business people aren’t so naive as to seek advice from their teenaged niece…grab a glass of water. There are a few things you need to prepare for.
There is a real spectrum of potential clients out there, when it comes to their regard for what you do. On one extreme, you have wealthy clients who think you walk on water, and never bat an eye at your invoices (oh how we love these clients!), and on the other extreme, you have do-it-yourself-ers who don’t value what you do and resist the time and money estimates for your efforts.
I call this the Spectrum of Regard. Any client will fall somewhere on this spectrum, when considering what to do about a website. Here’s the basic 5-point concept:
The points should be pretty self-explanatory. On the one hand, we have our do-it-yourself-er, with an under-developed appreciation for what goes into building a successful website, and on the other hand, we have clients willingly leaning on our services and expertise without question. In the middle you have many, many clients, who suspect they could be handling the website, but are paying you instead. This middle crowd can be tough to please, but they are typically pragmatic clients who won’t force the issue.
The do-it-yourself-ers, however, should absolutely attempt to build their own website!
Weebly, 1and1 and others all have those “free” build-your-own-website packages, or even a Joomla or WordPress site is not out of the realm of possibility for these people. There are a few possible outcomes:
They pull it off – this is a special breed of do-it-yourselfer and a rare outcome.
They somewhat pull it off – they get a site, they don’t like it – no one visits – no one buys.
They have spent weeks or months trying to put something together and still do not have a functional website.
The potential clients with the genius niece or nephew should absolutely hire their niece or nephew. These family members or close friends have their own spectrum of real expertise, and if your potential client is lucky, their niece or nephew have a lot on the ball. But the reality is, numerous of these lucky souls will have similar, unsatisfying outcomes. Often there is no functional website, or a poorly formed website at the end of this process.
How am I able to generalize so much about this situation?
Because building terrific websites is really difficult to do. There is so much to know, so many possibilities, and so many external things to consider beyond just colors and layout, that any person just starting off will have years of learning ahead of them.
“Fine”, you think, “but why not convince the client of these ideas up front? Why are you telling them to go ahead and do it themselves? That’s not salesmanship.” No. It’s pragmatism.
Believe me, we’ve tried. I’ve spent exhaustive hours on the phone with potential clients trying to frame these concepts and laying out all the ways they can save time and money by avoiding the Learning Curve and hiring a real web design expert, but at the end of the day, few people will be convinced. We found this was not a sensible way to spend our energy. Often the clients we did convince in a phone call were subsequently displeased with their invoice. We’ve heard, “it doesn’t seem like that should take 4 hours.” enough times to know, these clients can slide up and down the Spectrum of Regard on a whim.
What we’ve found instead astounded us at first, but now defines our policy for do-it-yourself-ers: enable them to try it themselves, and many of them will become wonderful website design clients. Show them WordPress.org. Show them Weebly and wish them genuine success!
The migration many of these potential clients make on the Spectrum of Regard is remarkable, and only requires time and distance, once they are mired in the learning curve of HTML, CSS, SEO, browser wars, mobile layouts, hosting, security, marketing, maintenance and so on.
Many clients who have taken this route educate themselves about all that it takes, and are much more appreciative, savvy clients in the long run, willing to defer to your expertise and pay for your services. In fact, we find the extreme do-it-yourself-ers often become the most fervent clients with the highest regard for the work we are doing!
So we tell our potential clients who ask, “By all means, build your own website. By all means, hire your step-brother’s roommate.”
Those clients who find success on this path should never have been our client anyway. But for the ones who are quickly overwhelmed, or confounded by the complexity, and sheer work involved in proper website design and marketing, if they remember our active encouragement, they’ll be back, ready to pay a web designer what they’re worth.
Bill lives and plays in Fort Collins, Colorado.
After a fulfilling career for a Fortune 50 company, Bill founded Colorado Web Design in 2012 with a passion for creative digital solutions for business.
Bill likes to manage a wide variety of projects and tasks for his clients in the digital space. The creative elements of website design, application design, and marketing are enough to keep anyone busy and engaged, but wiping the slate clean over and over at the start of new projects comes with its own challenges.
"I like to start with really good client communication sessions. The rest is easy if you get started in the right way."
He plays tennis, bikes, and hikes and then undoes all of that with too much delicious food and TV watching.
We've been building websites for Colorado businesses since 2002. We are a small team of dedicated individuals who love the challenge of each new marketing project. We live and play in northern Colorado.